It goes without saying that most of us chose Mount Holyoke College as our school to attend because of its excellence in academics. We went there knowing that we would have to study extremely hard in order to graduate. I think most of us can remember doing just that.
In the Spring of 1955 a small group of Physiology majors was seated around a table in the lab. We were having an oral revue in preparation of our finals. Charlotte Haywood was conduction a Q and A session. Her first question was “Urea is the end product of what?” Total silence. I remember mumbling very quietly, “I don’t know.” Miss Haywood smiled and shouted, “AMMIONIA, Correct Phyllis, you do have an ability to reach deep within and come up the right answer.” Again there was total silence. To this day I wonder if my good grades in Physiology were only due to Miss Haywood’s inability to hear well.
Beyond that memory comes the other side of my four years there. I cherish the friendships, the parties, campus life in general and the ability to grow socially, politically and emotionally. I didn’t have many close friends but the ones I did have remained dear all through the past years.
I especially remember our Junior Prom because the young man I was dating and eventually married showed up on campus for the first time. (I often thought that my roommate started to think that Steve was a figment of my imagination.) Sure enough—he was real and we had a great weekend. We climbed Mt. Holyoke and picnicked on the banks of the Connecticut River. We didn’t miss one event!
REMEMBER BACK WHEN????
OUR HEARTS WERE YOUNG AND GAY!
Here's the first reprint of some Mount Holyoke Memories written almost 15 years ago about the "good ole days"
Think back and join the conversation...don't be shy!
Remember we were taught to contribute to our communtiy,
so let's hear from you. Email Gay or Wink at JoanRipley@me.com or
firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll take care of the rest.
Along with all of the warm, fuzzy memories I gathered during my four years at Mount Holyoke, such as the special friends, the nurturing juniors in my freshman dorm, the beautiful mountain days that I realized after freshman year didn’t have to be spent climbing mountains, were some other memories of a more painful kind. Didn’t anyone have those uncomfortable times in class where you realized your brain was made of chocolate pudding? For me, it was Miss Harrison’s chemistry class of about a hundred women in a lecture hall the size of an amphitheater. Sitting in that class three times a week freshman year, was a truly humbling experience. First of all, she would ask a question of some sort, in some strange language. Then her hand would wander over the seating chart which had a pin by each name, and whoever’s pin she pulled out was “it”. For all I know, when she said “Miss O”Keeffe” she may have merely asked if I was still breathing, which by that time I was not, but in a year of that class, I never answered a question correctly.
Sophomore year was, for me, when life’s realities really intruded. Next door to Denny Edgar and me was another sophomore whom we rarely saw, because she usually wasn’t feeling well. It took about 3 weeks for us to figure out that the stomach flu or green death doesn’t happen every morning for that length of time. Our poor, miserable neighbor soon left to get married, leaving behind a very strong message for the rest of us: avoid stomach flue.
Then came the memorable incident of senior year, where much of my energies (and sleep time) were devoted to details more suited to Nancy Drew. One day our
Housemother at South Mandelle drew me aside and gently admonished me for forgetting to lock the sun porch/smoker door at closing time (10:00? Or 11:00 pm) on a weekend night. As HP of the dorm, I was responsible for locking all the doors and turning off the lights, alternating with wonderful friends who shared this task. In addition to locking up, we had to flash the lights over the front step 5 minutes ahead of the deadline for being in the dorm, so last minute kissers were given fair warning. The next night, after the housemother’s warning, I made very, very sure that the doors were all locked, being certain that I hadn’t suffered a senior moment the night before, but not entirely trusting my memory. The same thing began to happen frequently – the smoker/sun porch door would be found unlocked in the morning, until finally there were muddy footprints leading into the smoker from the (again) unlocked door. Until that time, I think all of us thought that maybe we had a ghost, but now were convinced that one of our dorm members was sneaking out – or that maybe someone was coming in…Finally the mystery was solved. One of our freshmen was caught coming in very early one morning both disheveled and drunk. It was a very sad ending to our ghost story and she, of course, left Mount Holyoke soon after.
So many memories bubbled up before, during and after reunion, and particularly because of the Oral History Seminar where we had to try and imagine ourselves and our feelings about ourselves and about the issues of the times as we felt then, fifty years ago. When I remember, most of my memories are the highlights, the good times, the revealtory moments in classes, but when prodded, I can also bring up some darker moments, or maybe just growing up moments…actually, I could write a book.
One of my fondest memories was the beginning of my freshman year. I was very apprehensive about coming , nervous as my mother and I drove up, but almost instantly I felt at ease. Why? The welcome we got at Brigham from the juniors and the house mother, Mrs. Blair, was warm and friendly. And, we were all newcomers together and that gave us an instant bond.
I had a single on the 4th floor, quite a hike, and it was VERY small. The closet was almost as big as the room. My mother quickly put her decorating skills to work, drove home and immediately produced a bed spread and matching slip cover for an easy chair we had brought. When it was all in place, the room was charming and I loved it.
Thanks to that infamous Freshman Handbook, the one with the pictures, I received a phone call from Amherst in the first week. He turned out to be someone I had known years ago during a summer stay in Kennebunkport, Maine. He appeared shortly with several of his new Amherst friends and that began a lovely fall of dates, football and fun for a group of us from Brigham. The fall colors were particularly gorgeous that year, or did it just seem so because my new world was so exciting?
Freshman dorms were part of my easy adjustment, I think. I had gone to a very small school and the coziness of Brigham appealed. Being freshmen together all that year cemented friendships that lasted throughout college and some way beyond. It also bonded us as a class, which colored my whole MHC experience, and indeed that bond still exists today.
Anne Gay Chaffee Hartman
My final days at Mt. Holyoke College brought the whole wonderful journey to the end. I went to college because it was expected of me and I thought I knew what I wanted as the end product. I fell in love with Stanford University in California, wishing to major in pre-med studies. My father didn’t deny me much, but he did say “no” to this thought as he knew he couldn’t afford to send me across the country and see me often during the year. His pride kept him from telling me that and I remember how relieved he was when I picked MHC, My sister had gone there but left after one and a half years to get married. School was not her cup of tea.
I loved Mount Holyoke the first time I saw it and was lucky to have a great roommate and live in a lovely dorm. My studies were exciting, except for the sciences, so I knew from the start that I needed more heart and brain to head for medical school.
My choice of my Major came out of the blue. I was looking for a major which would offer me what a liberal arts program should, but I was adverse to large classes where more personal discussions could hardly take place. My fellow classmates were all jumping into the fire with their choices and I had yet to get to the fat. Suddenly, one day, after a religion class, I discovered that everything which all the other non-science courses were offering, was being offered totally in one major. And that was Religion! At least it was for me.
Mt. Holyoke was the only school I knew of which offered a major with only 6 students in it. Of course, it grew as the newer classes came in and in a very few years it became on of the most beloved courses on Campus. My parents had absolutely no idea that I was soaking up Philosophy, History, English, Psychology, the Arts and so much more. I am sure that they quivered every time some friend of theirs asked what I was majoring in, never realizing them that I was getting the most “liberal” arts a school could possibly teach in those days.
The fact that my professor/advisor had such a small class, meant that he read every word we wrote. My senior year, ib the field, was the most wonderful part of my education. Our Major exams were split up into two days, all day. After the first day, after we were out of the exam room, we 6 decided to go to the movies and forget religion for a few hours. When I returned to the dorm, I had a note to call Professor Tamblyn. I blanched at the thought, knowing I had failed the first day. He was so kind and wished to tell me that although I had used all of the correct answers, I had misread the question, but he wanted me to have an easy sleep and finish off the final day reading the questions carefully.
Where else would one have been able to have such personal and caring professors, who taught each class with no assistants and spent as many hours with you as you felt you needed?
Graduation day for me was amazing. I was the first member of my family to have EVER graduated from college. I had a background which prepared me as a whole person and a world in which to use what I had learned. I had a family who finally understood what a special experience I had had for the past four years, and I began my first job three months later as the Assistant Business Manager of an Orchestra in New York. Music was my first love and my guidance counselor really listened to me when she asked what field I would like to work in.
Those four years, in a nutshell, are still a huge part of my life. I am on the Board of one of the most highly respected Symphony Orchestras in the world and my studies 50 years ago allow me to understand how I could connect them with the rest of my life.
Thelma (Tee) Englander Goldberg
What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you planning to do when you finish college? Typical questions? Right? Wrong! In 1955 no one, not even parents asked those questions. Wife and mother were the mission. So in September 1951, off I went to a prestigious women’s college, one of the seven sisters (important credential), and off to seek my fame and husband. Beginning with week-end #1 when the blind date march began, I had my first drink ever (bourbon and ginger ale) and my first cigarette – both signposts of coming of age. The daytime uniform included loafers, knee socks, /Bermuda shorts and cashmere sweater sets. (Surely not the clothes of the recent Mona Lisa Smile). Dating attire was the little wool dress or suit, very high heels topped with nylons and panty girdle and a string of white pearls. Certainly no pierced ears.
The days were filled with classes 8-5 except Saturdays 8-12, five courses 3 times a week, and free time to read yourself into oblivion in the library with at least four pages of bibliography per course. No sure I ever finished one complete bibliography. Blue books for testing were frequent and finals appeared every year mid January, just soon enough after Christmas vacation to hang over your head like the plague. Campus was a buzz with many activities, class parties, mountain day, gracious living, and the dorm life was central to the social life. The smoker was where the cool girls hung out and, aside for smoking, a lot of bridge was played. Some of us had “good” housemothers and others really didn’t care. We shared a lot of common “baby” courses freshman year before narrowing down to our major the end of sophomore year.
Week-ends, especially Saturday, were for serious guy time either at Amherst, a handy place, or at one of the many men’s New England colleges where we went in buses or limos to play and drink while pursuing our mate for life. The stage was usually set at the fraternity houses. By senior year, certainly, more than half of us had achieved our goal. Junior/senior years were filled with dorm parties late at night celebrating getting pinned or engaged.
One might ask what was the meaning of going to one of the top women’s colleges in the country in the early ‘50’s. In retrospect, the education, broad and liberal, taught us how to think critically and make thoughtful decisions, exposed us to the liberal arts in the best sense of the word, and gave us confidence to know we could actually carry those skills with us wherever and we would succeed. Beyond being a wife and mother, many of us discovered as we matured along with our families, we had much to give to the world and could make great contributions. The seeds of those attitudes were planted at Mt. Holyoke.
Deb Hazzard Nash
I have to admit that Mount Holyoke was not my first choice of colleges. I really wanted to go to a coed school and Cornell was my first choice. My second choice was Wellesley because several of my good high school friends were applying there. My third choice was Mt. Holyoke. Cornell accepted me but my father made it very clear that his only daughter was not going to a coed college! Wellesley turned me down and after the initial disappointment, I happily went off to Mt. Holyoke in the fall of 1951.
I was an over confident, sheltered and naive young woman. I came out of our local high school as salutatorian and never worked hard at my schoolwork. At Holyoke I signed up for a French class thinking that this would be a breeze. After all, I had taken three years of French at high school. I left the very first class in total shock. Not only was the teacher French, but she had the nerve to talk French during the whole class! I didn’t understand a word that she was saying! It was most upsetting to me and I didn’t even understand the assignment. In high school, we said hello, goodbye and learned a few other phrases. Otherwise, we worked on writing and grammar.
I quickly learned that valedictorian and salutatorian meant nothing. They were a dime a dozen…and there were many, many very intelligent women in my class. I quickly learned that I had to work very, very hard to keep my head above water in most of my classes. Four years later, I graduated a different woman. I had learned how to think for myself, to believe I myself to stand up for my own rights, and to think open mindedly. I am extremely proud of my Mt. Holyoke education.
We're not sure who wrote this memory because the name was cut off,
but if you recognize who wrote this please let us know.
The first Mountain Day, our Freshman Year was a hoot. About 7 of us from Safford decided to ride bikes to Northampton to visit Smith. Naturally we all had the state of the art bikes at the time---big fat air filled tires, no gears, and just pedaled powered. Off we went, all giddy and enthusiastic, with our college provided lunches stored safely in the front “baskets” that encumbered many of our bikes. I don’t recall how long it took us to actually get to Smith, but we all straggled in, and had a pretty good day, thought I really can’t recall what we actually did, and then we decided to start the trek home. Of course by afternoon, all our muscles had started to cramp up, and it was virtually impossible to pedal these Neanderthal bikes. We would go literally a few feet, stop and moan, and were getting into quite a panic as to how we were ever going to get back to South Hadley.
One of us had a divine inspiration to hitch, and a very kindly man, driving an open back vegetable truck picked us all up, bikes and everything. We sprawled amidst the lettuce, cabbage and carrots, swearing never to attempt anything so stupid again. Needles to ay the remaining 3 Mountain Days were enjoyed with a quiet picnic, a gentle stroll through our own beautiful campus, or perhaps a few hours spent with a good book. Still today, when those rare few utterly gorgeous October Days come along I can literal hear the chapel bells ringing calling us all to another Mountain Day.
I still maintain that we were truly fortunate to have been able to attend college in the 50’s. I am working at a small private all female school and I feel so sorry that the present student doesn’t have any concept of the college experience we all shared. They are working so hard to pay these hideous tuitions, hardly anyone lives on campus and there is practically no participation in extra curricular activities. We all moaned and groaned about the required chapel, but we had so many wonderful lectures, concerts, etc. to choose from. We hated the restrictive house rules, but in fact we were in such a safe environment and felt protected and cared for. With all the new privacy rules parents don’t even get grades, don’t know if their daughters are even attending class, are totally unaware if they are failing, and we’ve had a few instances of girls registering, never showing up and we have no way of knowing if they even still exist. So much for privacy!
In retrospect I probably should have studied more. If I regret anything it has to be all the untold hours I spent playing bridge. Those hours in the smoking lounge were really an absolutely dreadful thing to have done, and I have always been a non-smoker! Of course I learned to play bridge and have belonged to a wonderful bridge club for many years.
Things were not always wonderful. There was one year when I thought June would never come. I was greatly challenged by the incredible academics and available opportunities. There is absolutely NO comparison to the watered-down academics that are offered today at many colleges.
Cathy Suarez Szap